It's a little after noon on Friday and Lisa Vanderpump is walking around the soon-to-be-finished garden patio of Pump, her new restaurant, bar and lounge in West Hollywood. She's adjusting lighting fixtures, directing construction workers and figuring out where to put a shipment of 40 large decorative pots that have just arrived.
The star of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and producer of "Vanderpump Rules" is hoping to have the restaurant, her third Los Angeles venture, open to the public Thursday. She also owns Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills, Sur on Robertson Boulevard and has opened a number of venues in Europe -- all of which she designed herself.
She's taken over the once disheveled Southeast corner of Robertson and Santa Monica Boulevard. A large iron gate opens onto what is now a multipart restaurant and lounge with an outdoor area that seats 75, a garden area with seating for 70, an indoor dining area and a room for private parties.
Former "The Next Food Network Star" contestant Penny Davidi, who also opened Pizza Rustica, is the chef and collaborated with Vanderpump on what Davidi calls a "people-friendly" Mediterranean, Italian menu. Dishes include tri-color pasta with house sausage in a light arrabiata sauce and another pasta dish with chunks of lobster; filet mignon tagliata sliced over red cabbage and a cauliflower and wasabi puree; and a salmon filet with a tumeric, lemon caper sauce, fingerling potatoes and asparagus.
Vanderpump has a couple of her own dishes on the menu including a shrimp and crab salad-stuffed papaya. She's also taken some of her favorites from Villa Blanca, including the crab rolls and spicy tuna and crispy rice and put them on Pump's bar menu.
Davidi is also preparing all the desserts, borrowing a few from her new bakery TOC, slated to open May 16 on 3rd Street. They include ginger cake, toffee pudding, a raspberry mousse dome and more.
"Oh," Vanderpump gushes as Davidi sets a plate of the tagliata in front of her. "That's sex on a plate. I want everything to be sexy."
A full bar will be offered at both the indoor and outdoor bars featuring signature cocktails such as the Pumptini, made with Vanderpump vodka, Pavan, fresh grapefruit and lime. Vanderpump's own LVP sangria will also be served.
Vanderpump designed the restaurant herself, drawing inspiration from the seven years she spent living in France. Sprawling 100-year-old olive trees shade the private-cabana-lined garden area. Lanterns hang from the tree branches and shimmering silver candleholders sit atop each table.
Toward the middle of the garden, there's a marble-top bar with mirrored panels featuring portions of an old Parisian bridge. Magnum bottles of Moet Chandon already sit in silver basins, waiting to be popped open at the grand opening party Tuesday. In the back corner, a private VIP cabana with plush seats, pillows and Vanderpump's quotes from "The Real Housewives" hand-painted on the wall by Vanderpump herself.
"I wanted to create a garden that makes you feel like you're in paradise, like France," said Vanderpump. "I always look for what I think the market needs in a certain space. For this, it's very gay friendly because we are right in boy's town."
Vanderpump plans to start with dinner, then eventually add brunch and lunch service. Prices range from $11 to $32.